Some 5,000 guests will be among the first to cast their eyes on the world's largest airliner, when Airbus rolls out the A380 in a lavish ceremony in Toulouse, France, on Tuesday.
Some 70 cars could park on the A380's wing-span
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, French President Jacques Chirac, and the British and Spanish prime ministers are set to attend the party, as the European consortium unveils the plane their countries lent Airbus over €3.2 billion ($4.2 billion) to build.
"You need to count another three years," Airbus chief Noel Forgeard told France's La Tribune newspaper when asked when the break-even point would come for the A380 project. Forgeard predicted that would happen when the 750th A480 is sold.
So far, 14 airlines have placed orders for 149 of the new planes, which have a catalog price of between €200 and €218 million. Dubai-based airlines Emirates will have the largest A380 fleet with 45.
A new giant in the sky?
Since it was first introduced in the early 1970s, Boeing's 747 has monopolized the market for large jets. But the A380 can seat more passengers -- between 555 and 853 as opposed to the most recently updated Boeing, the 747-400, which seats between 416 and 568.
First class lounge with pull-out beds
Airbus has tried to attract orders by arguing that the A380 will cost 17 percent less to fly than Boeing's 747-400, despite the fact that it weighs more. The A380 is 15 meters (16.4 yards) wider, 4 meters taller, 2 meters longer and 118 tons heavier than the Boeing 747 jumbo. Seventy cars could be parked on its enormous wing-span. Airbus offers the plane equipped with cocktail bars, billiard rooms, showers and libraries.
A library and sales space for duty-free items
The double-decker will take its maiden voyage in March and be exhibited for the public to see at the Paris Air Show in June. Singapore Airlines is expected to put the first A380 to use in 2006.
Airbus figures that, over the next two decades, more than 1,200 aircraft of the size of the A380 will be required for point-to-point routes in the world. The planes will be able to land at airports equipped for 747s, though the wing-span is too large for the planes to dock in most places. Many of the world's most heavily traveled airports, including Frankfurt Airport London's Heathrow and New York's John F. Kennedy International, have been preparing for the huge planes.
Airbus has around 50,000 employees, mainly in France, Germany, Spain and Britain. European aeronautics consortium EADS owns an 80 percent share in the company.